That might seem like a very strange thing to say about Ironman considering the fact that I’m such a big fan of training volume as I talked about here but given the fact that at any given Ironman race there might be as many as 2-300 people who have the engine, physical capacity and fitness to qualify for Kona why do we regularly see the same athletes qualifing again and again? In a series of posts featuring five Irish athletes who between them have qualified for Kona an incredible 29 times I look at the differences between them and the ones who don’t make it.
The most striking aspect of the report I’ve written examining these athletes (which is available free here) is that physical talent isn’t necessarily what they attribute their success to or certainly not the only aspect. It would be ridiculous to suggest that they aren’t incredibly impressive athletes but what differentiates them from other less successful athletes I believe is a number of factors other than physical “talent” such as; Mental strength, decision making ability particularly under the stress of race day, the ability to overcome problems in training and even see them as opportunities, their ability to master race day nutrition, self control, pacing judgement and an ability to sustain a high level of pain and continue to hurt themselves at the end of a race.
The five featured athletes are;
Former Irish Ironman record holder and 16 time Ironman finisher including qualifying for Kona 6 times and racing there 3 three times. Alan’s been on the podium twice in Kona as well as a number of times in other Ironman races. It’s worth noting that he’s an ex smoker and lost 4 stone in the lead up to his first Ironman in Austria in 2005 where he went sub 10. So far he has gone sub 10 in every Ironman he has done.
Owen has been one of the most consistent performers on the Irish Ironman scene for the last number of years with either 17 or 18 Ironman’s (He’s lost count) and he has qualified 7 times for Kona.
Martin has raced 13 Ironman and incredibly 6 of those were in Kona. Martin is one of the very versatile athletes able to race at both full and half Ironman distances having picked up one of his slots in the uber competitive 70.3 in Texas in 2012.
Matt has done 11 Ironman’s including three Kona’s and qualified at his first attempt. Unusual in this group who all list the bike or run as their strongest of the three disciplines is that Matt is one of the top swimmers in Ironman. Often the first age-grouper out of the swim and usually beating a number of the Pro’s in the process.
Dec played GAA (Irish football) up to under 21 age level and ran competitively in school earning himself a scholarship to Canada through his efforts. He did three Ironman before giving qualifying for Kona a crack. Since then he has racked up a whopping total of 22 Ironman including 7 Kona’s. Dec is another of the group who is equally as fast at the half distance as the full winning not only his age group in the inaugural Dublin 70.3 but taking the overall age group win beating athletes half his age.
- Number of Ironman finishes 82
- Number of Kona qualifications 29
I question each of the athletes about their racing and training, what they rate as their strengths and weaknesses. They share their favorite training sessions as well as their craziest ones. Alan Ryan wins this part hands down. I also analyse what are the traits that they all have in common and examine how we can all adopt their habits and practices to improve our own training and racing performances. Some of the topics I look at in the report are mental strength, problem solving, overcoming difficulties in racing and training, the one key ability that each of the athletes believe is crucial in getting to Kona.